1. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    Tools and Techniques for Plot Creation

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by SRCroft, Nov 29, 2010.

    I am very curious about how many of you choose to develop your stories. I have heard of people starting with theme, developing a plot, breaking it into characters that reflect plot movement, creating chapters and filling in the blanks.

    My Method: (Feel free to comment, but this is how my brain works.)

    • I tend to think about things I enjoy reading about or imagining. I will have thousands of tiny cool clips of scenes, actions, or images, dancing around in my head, that I feel are worthy to one day share with people. Suddenly, one of those images will jump to the front and yells, "O-Oh, choose me!"

    • From that point, I start thinking about what would revolve around that circumstance occurring. The how, why, or what, that would make that situation as meaningful as I feel it was in my head. Generally that get's me a basic 2-D plot.

    • I create a bunch of one to three line paragraphs that describe a key factor in the story, leading or surrounding the event. Usually, those key factors start to manipulate the whole story or they cry for situations and plot elements that feed their own needs.

    • By this point, a theme has usually popped out at me. Sometimes it is more than one theme. But, I try to spend a day or two picking out the most powerful universal theme and think about how I can make it a consistent part of every aspect of the story.

    • Next, I flush out the three paragraph lines, giving it detail and thematic meaning until I feel that each section contains its own arching tension and climax.

    • I follow this up by sectioning them into 30 chapters, give or take, and use title to reflect the theme, feel and happenings of the paragraph.

    • I take a break from the story and take the 2-D character's I have and write a tons of information about them. Traits, history, emotions and shortcomings are just some idea of what I go into. Once I feel they are 3-D, to me, I place them back into those 30 sections. I let them loose and they usually make problems, create a ruckus, and manipulate the story or change the plot, suiting their needs.

    • I go back one last time to each of the 30 sections and following the characters, trying to keep with the key plot points. I write a page or so of dry, a-matter-of-fact, and quick, story plots and elements. Occasionally I will write important dialogue too.

    • Finally, If you have ever told yourself, I could have written this better or I could have made a better movie, you have the best tool you could ever have. A free, usable, outline of a plot and story, that is ripe for the picking and you can copy and manipulate as much as you like to create your novel.

    Last note:
    Once the first draft is done, I repeat the process for each revision.

    Starting from theme and listing out the chapters and key plot points.
    You spent about 400 pages getting to know characters and feeling dead points in your plot or realizing amazing twists that might need to be interlaced subtly into the story. This is the most fun part for me!
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    To be honest never give it that much thought - I sit down with my character and we begin the journey together. For myself the first draft is my plan out of that comes the real story. I don't think twice about deleting thousands of words to incorporate a new idea (so far I think 40,000 is the most in one go). I pay no attention to grammar, dialogue, character development etc (some of it happens naturally) - have discovered so little of it survives intact by the end it isn't worth it.

    Then I read that draft several times taking notes - working out what is staying, what is going, what needs adding. Usually the second draft is enough writing, then I edit it. I start from the beginning each time editing as I go, once a page has had four passes without a change then I start with the next page.

    Finally I get my readers (I have a couple I need to bottle lol every writer should have one) - they then give me feedback about what makes sense, what is too much, what needs changing.

    I can write a 90K novel in around a month - rewrite once I know the story takes a couple of weeks. Editing takes around four to six months lol

    My first story was an accident - it came out of a picture I doodled. Each one has been different - second one was the hardest to write and took longer - I rewrote the first 5-15000 words about six times. Third one has been halted from NaNo but was easier as a familiar character and a familiar story (retelling of my first book from the POV of the older brother not sure if I will make them one book). Easiest by far has been the NaNo right from the first sentence I knew it was going the right way and I haven't needed any major rewrites.
     
  3. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    ^I agree with you 100% here. The stories I've come up with all have started from something I enjoyed reading or watching. And as I've expanded my intial idea, scenes, images, and voices start popping into my head.

    At that point, I just try to get all that raw material down onto paper. I don't want to lose any of it. This whole explosion continues off and on for a while. A few days at least.

    When my brain has finally stopped, I then sit down and try to write out a rough idea of how my story will go. (i.e. What external circumstances will pop in, what obstacles with greet my characters, and what one "thing" will make my story. The thing that will bring out the climax).

    After this, I'll then move on to my other elements in my story: Themes, characters, and the setting. I fill in all the blanks for these, then go on to create an outline of my story; adding all the details I can as I go along.

    And then - the writing comes.
     
  4. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    Head in the clouds

    It honestly may be a left brain, right brain thing as well. Also genre plays a part. I write fantasy, so it is no surprise I start with my head in the clouds.
     
  5. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    Genre maybe?

    You're definitely right. Not much survives in revision after revision, except for key things that made your piece what it was.

    I found your view interesting. My way I can get through 90k in about a month, but tack on a week for the starting phase.

    Do you mind if I ask your genre of fiction, just to get a better idea if the differences are possibly genre related. I feel certain writers gravitate toward genres, because it fits what they love and how they think.

    e.g. Fantasy vs. Sci-fi vs historical fiction, vs Mystery.
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    My novel length stories are fantasy. I write variety of genres for Short Stories from romance, general fiction and historical. Mine became fantasy because my action/adventure worked better in a made up country then to allow my first person narrator to observe a scene I turned him into a bird lol That gave way to a whole new universe. I do have a romance story in mind - may write it someday but my world has spawned so many stories I don't know if I will ever get the chance.

    I do write fast - I can kidfree write a 60K YA story in a weekend - however I more realistically aim for 5000 words a day with a first draft. I can write a short story in under an hour it isn't always good but the story will be out lol
     
  7. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    Tweet Tweet

    Actually, that's very cool. A lot of Japanese mythology and fairy tales used to do this. It adds a fantastic perspective on the limitations and inflection toward the point of view.
     
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    more screech and honk lol My MC in my first story became a falcon. The MCs in this story are a Swan, Peacock and Scarlet McCaw.
     
  9. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    KowKow

    I have an antagonist that is a crow, in one book, so I feel you. He is based on Sanzuwu, which is a three-legged mythological figure in several cultures. Very old though.

     
  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    oh I have crows as well lol The heavens are all atwitter in my stories.

    Seriously though that is how my plots are created - I just write them and they appear. For my NaNo I started with this warm, fuzzy, humourous story - my only goal to have fun writing it - about 10K from the end a very dark difficult disturbing twist happened and now it is more than just a fun story.

    My first began as the story of a dead king, turned into the story about his seventeen year old son. For me the delete key is my primary tool in plot creation. I removed 30,000 words once just because I had changed the colour of the falcon my MC changed into I needed to change the scenery for visual effect and to provide him with camouflage for observation to work.
     
  11. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    Happy birds destroy the world!

    I am very similar. My story was this fairytale-esque story of a boy who goes to a fantasy place and it became this very dark fantasy where the theme became fear and insanity vs. hope and acceptance of fear. Just shows our true mode of thinking and our commitment to moving in an uninhibited direction that the characters lead us. At least that's what I'd like to believe.
     
  12. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I stole mine from Russell T Davies and applied it to my own story lol
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    though some non-fiction may call for that kind of pre-op process, i don't, haven't, and never would write fiction by such a 'mechanical' method... would be akin to trying to paint a masterpiece 'by the numbers' imo...
     
  14. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    Methods

    If it was a mechanical process or someone boxed my method, I would agree with you.

    I merely listed how my brain makes me work on average. Even if some days vary, on average, it ends up being what I concentrate on and the order I usually do so.

    I think the--paint by numbers--comment came off as a mean and belittling in your analogy of my process, but I don't think you had that intention. Master painters, like authors, have had many methods. The Mona Lisa had a model, landscapes have specific times of day to keep lighting the same, and they all use techniques and proper tools--which have mechanical application to their methods. Some people misconstrue inspiration, creativity and masterful application in a technical way, as the author having a natural gift that just appears with little effort or preparation.

    I think that structure should never hold back creativity, but many biographies of masterpiece authors have shown they have a structure of some kind to how they write. Fiction is a craft. It takes creativity, imagination, flare and spontaneity, but it also takes hard work, study, research and for most people pre-op effort.

    I am not saying you can't just write a novel from beginning to end. Everyone's different.

    But, my actual question was how people feel they go about coming up with stories and then turn them into novels. I listed the way my mind works, not to suggest that it is "the way", just my way.

    I believe that zero preparation or structure when writing a novel can be devastating to an end result, most of the time.There are some, I am sure, that can sit and start writing a story with no research, no method, and can use a linear beginning to end, as-you-go, method.

    If you do research, as you go along. Its still your method. If you do flush out characters behind the scene, no matter when you do it, its still a method.

    As for "mechanical processes" being a negative connotation when it comes to creating an amazing fiction or fantasy story, I don't think it's quite easy to make that claim.

    Research, grammar, continuity, inflection, and word choice, are all mechanical processes that are dealt with.
    Coming up with a story is instinct and creative inspiration. The process of turning a story into a novel, filled with grammar, narrative, dialogue, and action is mechanical.

    Non-Fiction absolutely has some sort of pre-op process, although it varies from topic and genre. Unless the person is Wikipedia incarnate or a human-version of a digital recorder they have mechanical methods; for example, research, interviews, and structuring which are part of the craft.

    Again, can there be exceptions? I am sure there can be.
    But there are tons of books on fiction, writing, and even autobiographies, that clarify this topic.

    Lastly, yes, the paint by numbers thing did bother me. If you call my method paint by number, it is a mistake. My structure doesn't reflect that whatsoever because, in that example I would have I made the numbers, the book, the paint and method of application, to this imaginary child's painting set.

    Following the way my brain works and the methods it chooses is not mechanical, its organic.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i wasn't referring to your method, src... hadn't even read it all, so certainly wasn't intending to demean you or your process in any way... i was simply giving my opinion on generally doing much pre-planning for fiction works... and the paint-by-numbers bit is merely how i see using any structured pre-op process, wasn't intended to apply to yours in particular...

    i'm sorry you took my comments as aimed at you, when i only meant them in re how i see pre-planning vs not doing so... if it works for you, that's great... my comments were intended to only note what works for me...

    love and healing hugs, maia
     
  16. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    Okay

    Okay, I assumed you read the post and thread first, since you replied, no problem.
     
  17. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    Personally what I do is this...

    1)Brainstorm for a creative concept for my story. One thing I pride myself on is that none of my stories can be labelled "A generic ____ story". They always have some sort of interesting theory, concept, world, natural law, or something like that.

    2)I figure out how to write a story around my concept. So let's say my concept is the method to bind fossils to an object, which can then bring the fossils to life through its essence. So I write about a scientist who unknowingly brings a T-Rex back to life. It then wrecks havoc.

    3)Then I work out the finer details, like what was he doing with a dinosaur fossil anyway, what happens afterwards, how did they stop the T-Rex, and all that.

    4)Once I've got the plot, I simply pick out the main characters, refine the plot some more and start writing.
     
  18. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    Binding Fossils


    Very cool. I am similar, going from idea to details to characters. When you say generic, do you mean the plot or being able to be labeled into a genre, just curious. Good reply, thanks.
     

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